This Delhi-based online company designs and manufactures an array of industrial design products to bring a new dimension to aesthetics.
Startup: The Black Steel
Founder: Prateek Singh
Year it was founded: 2015
Where is it based: New Delhi
The problem it solves: Sells innovative industrial design furniture and lighting solutions
Sector: Home decor
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Zero employees, no office space, no investors, and no industry support, yet, Prateek Singh sought to build an ecommerce startup that offers lighting designs to homes and commercial places. After a four-year stint at a Swiss luxury watch brand, Prateek resigned in 2015, and founded 'The Black Steel', which designs and retails industrial-inspired lamps and interiors.
“Finding the right name for my business was a challenge at first. I always wanted the business name to reflect power - something that can be easily pronounced by a global audience - sophisticated and has an industrial feel to it. When I voiced 'The Black Steel 'for the very first time in my life, I knew this is it,” Prateek says.
While he initially struggled for acceptance of his designs in India, as most people prefer brightly lit interiors with tube lights, Prateek’s designs have now gained popularity and today 'The Black Steel' caters to a global audience and has a growing customer base.
In his entrepreneurial journey, Prateek faced many rejections from manufacturers and traders who he approached with his designs. “My biggest challenge is that I am not manufacturing a mass product, and nobody has the time to manufacture just a few pieces of a design,” Prateek says, explaining his initial challenge.
Also, the lack of formal training as an entrepreneur worked to his disadvantage at times, but he took the plunge and started his business from home. His first step was building a webstore.
“At the beginning, me and my flatmate who is a painter and well-versed with photoshop, would sit at home and photograph and subsequently edit all my products. However, I couldn’t bug him with these tasks forever, so I learned how to photograph, edit videos, and write content myself,” Prateek says.
The Black Steel sells more than 70 products on its website. Initially starting with lamps, Prateek saw that people were looking for holistic interior décor concepts and that Indian tastes, especially in metros such as Mumbai and Delhi, were changing.
During a trip to Jaipur, he explored the concept of industrial furniture produced mostly for the export market. He tied up with a couple of local industrial furniture suppliers and added a range of furniture products to his webstore. The online store today offers products across eight categories – geometric lamps, the pipe factory, loft interiors, industrial lamps, De Stijl 1917, table décor, mid-century furniture and bulbs.
“I have created many of the lamp designs myself. I have always been attracted towards minimalistic designs and thought I would be able to impress my potential customers with it,” Prateek says.
Hailing from a small city in Haryana, it was a long road for Prateek to find the right career path. After working as a boutique manager for Lacoste, he joined Jaeger-LeCoultre, a Swiss luxury watch brand as sales and marketing administrator.
“When you work as an employee in a company, you never get the appreciation for your work you are looking for. Founding 'The Black Steel' has given me a new motivation and positive customer feedbacks keep me going,” Prateek says.
Starting with a small budget, and still bootstrapped, Prateek wants to make a mark in the global market with adding more quality products which will cater to multiple needs and room interiors. He says he does not need funding as yet as the sales make up for his requirements.
“Germany is one of the markets I want to capture. Especially, Berlin is famous for his rough, industrial and urban charm. I did an exploration visit in 2016 to Berlin and found many industrial products from the Soviet times in the various flea markets scattered around Berlin. I think there is a lot of scope to add to this,” Prateek outlines his expansion plans.